I’ll be doing a quick tutorial on Spring pruning pretty soon, but had to throw this in for a chuckle.
Oh dear, I fell like RLGS is turning into an Ad Agency. Today I got an e-newsletter from North Coast Gardening about some Kindle books that Amazon has on sale. So of course I checked them out, and within a minute I was the proud owner of another Tracy DiSabato-Aust book, “The Well-Tended Perennial Garden”.
I already have “The Well-Designed Mixed Garden” and love it, so I highly recommend her books.
If any of you have great suggestions for gardening books, I’d love to see them. Leave a comment…
5 Design Tips–Pruning Small Trees
We usually think the beauty of trees is either their foliage or their flowers. But let’s not forget structure, shape, limbs and bark. IMHO some of the most beautiful trees are the ones with interesting trunk or limb shape (such as this Acer dissectum from a previous post), or beautiful bark. (Who doesn’t love our native Arbutus menziesii?)
In order to appreciate the these features, you have to be able to see them, which often requires pruning.
Here are two Acer palmatums ‘Crimson Queen’. The first is allowed to weep right down to the ground, and with shrubs all around, all you see is a mound of burgundy leaves. Some obviously like that look.
2. And Limbing Up
The second–still Crimson Queen–is pruned (not “trimmed”) from the bottom (“limbing up”) and through the crown. There are fewer branches altogether, and branches that were weighing down the look of the tree, or lower branches, were pruned to their origin–the trunk– so that there is a more “airy” look to this tree (“thinning”). Here’s a VERY wordy (detailed and comprehensive) tutorial on pruning and staking Japanese.
Another way to “prune” or train a JM, or any weeping specimen, is to stake it upright until it achieves the ultimate height you want. Again, going back to the Acer dissectum of an earlier post, the leader (most upright branch, or dominant branch) was staked with a curve in it, then allowed to grow a bit, and curved back again. This was done very young, when the branch was pliable. We removed the stake on planting up the container, because we now want the tree to adopt a more natural weeping habit. We’ll keep the lowest branches thinned, and when there is more canopy growth, will probably remove most of the lowest branches so its decorative trunk will always be visible.
Usually staking keeps the leader upright and straight.
4. Multi-stemmed trees
Hamamelis is just one example of multi-stemmed trees. In the winter it blooms and is delightfully fragrant:
In the summer it can have a nice wide vase shape, or just be a little… blah.
I can’t cay that my ‘Diane’ Witch Hazel is any better than Kevin Lee Jacobs’, but here it is today, about one-and-a half years since planting:
Now, I’m a complete novice at this video thing, and have a rather puny camera with crummy sound. But listen closely and you’ll get the gist of pruning out extraneous branches so you can see the attractive multi-stem structure.
5. Choose the Right Trees
Finally, choose the right trees for the available space–“Right Plant, Right Spot”. You’ve heard me say this before, but make sure you check not only the plant tag, but other sources of information about your proposed tree. The tag might include words such as “dwarf”, “nana“, “compacta”, or any “small” words (mini, little…), yet still be bigger than your space can accommodate. Do a quick google search to find out how big–in height and width–your specimen gets in local gardens–forums are the best for that. I love gardenweb.com and the UBC Botanical Garden forums.
There you have it, 5 quick tips for making the best of your small trees. I’d love to hear about your pruning adventures. Leave a comment, question, critique. I’m very keen to learn for others with different experiences.
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The candytuft really filled the space, but now it’s all just one big mess.
The early peonies were bright and bold, but now they’re really a mess.
What to do? Cut, cut, cut. But cut with care!
Let’s Start With Peonies
You can cut off the flower stalk, but leave the rest of the foliage. It’s lovely right now, will furnish cuttings for bouquets through the rest of the growing season, and will probably turn a bit red in the fall before they finally succumb. A lot of your larger non-bulb spring plants can be treated the same.
Spring blooming bulbs and rhizomes
Most of your bulbs need to continue to grow and photosynthesize even after the flower fades in order to replenish the bulb, and in some cases multiply the bulb. So you can cut the flower stalk and leave the foliage until it turns completely yellow. Problem is, of course, it begins to look unsightly pretty soon after the flowers are done. Your best solution is to plant bulbs in among other perennials that will grow up alongside, or soon after the bulb, so the new growth of the companion plant hides the dying foliage of the bulb.
Irises (a rhizome) are easier because they maintain their sword-like foliage into the late fall. All you have to do is cut down the flower stalk.
Some faded flowers are definitely worth keeping. This allium (‘Purple Sensation’) is setting seed, and usually that means that it isn’t putting it’s energy into replenishing its bulb. But why cut down something that looks this good?
Aubretia, Creeping Phlox, Iberis–all ground covers that bloom like crazy in the spring, then really NEED to be trimmed after blooming so they’ll maintain a nice neat growth habit. Otherwise they get woody, or sprawl all over the place, or grow out the ends and die in the middle. Trimming is exactly what it sounds like–grab a handful and CUT.
Most of your similar low-growing spring bloomers can be handled the same.
I’ll have more tips for pruning in future posts. Post some questions below about your own pruning needs–I’ll answer what I can, research what I don’t already know, and ask my more expert friends if I’m still in the dark. And as always, click on the “Follow” button, and “like” on Facebook.